Reproductive Rights Redux

Americans hate to be told what to do–even when it’s in our own best interests.

Today’s brouhaha over the Obama Administration’s decision to require employers to provide insurance fully covering birth control is a case in point.

Catholic employers are protesting that “It’s not the issue of contraception, but religious freedom,” according to today’s Washington Post, which quoted one Sister Carol Keehan as saying: “It’s not about preventing women from buying anything themselves, but telling the church what it has to buy, and the potential for that to go further.”

Let’s remember that no one is making women go out and buy contraception.  The ruling is simply intended to make contraception, including the morning-after pill, available to all employees free of charge through normal employer health coverage.

Excuse me, isn’t this a great thing?

I remember when Viagra was first introduced commercially, women were outraged over the fact that insurance companies were willing to give men coverage to maintain their erections, but women who wanted to prevent pregnancy had to pay for it out of pocket.

And women’s contraception isn’t cheap!  Whether it’s a diaphragm, an IUD, or hormone pills and implants, it’s expensive for women to opt out of reproduction.  It’s not equivalent to a man picking up a condom over the counter at the drug store.  All of the methods I’ve listed above involve visits to a prescribing doctor, which significantly ups the price.

Although men may beg to differ, I’d maintain that the question of reproductive freedom is of far more importance to women than erections are to men.  An erection may come and go, but a child is here to stay.  And a child has a far more powerful repercussion on her mother’s life than she does on her father’s life.
Both of my pregnancies were undertaken intentionally and with joy.  I am not complaining, but it’s undeniable that having children has impacted my life much more than it affected my ex-husband (even when we were still together).  I know this is not true for every couple, but it’s true for a lot of us women.  Our gender still gives us a special extra role to play in bringing the next generation along.
And that’s a pretty important role!  So why shouldn’t society help us to ensure that when we bring children into the world, it’s with our eyes wide open and every intention of taking our parenting seriously?
Making it more affordable for women to obtain birth control will increase the likelihood that more children will be born to mothers–and families–that are ready and able to support them.  In this day and age, with 7 billion human beings crowding our Earth, that is an important goal in itself.
No one is advocating that we actually limit reproduction, as the Chinese have done, but at least let’s make it easy and affordable for women who want to postpone or avoid childbirth to do so.
The Obama Administration deserves our gratitude and applause for having the courage to turn the corner on this contentious issue.  President Obama should hold his ground.
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  1. If only it were really true that the question of reproductive freedom is of far more importance to women than erections are to men! It definitely should be. But it seems that in our patriarchal and extremely gender-skewed society, almost nothing is more important to men than their erections–and the caveat at the end of all those commercials for correctives to “reptile disfunction,” about erections lasting more than four hours, probably sounds great to many. I join you in bemoaning a system in which most of the major studies (even of women’s illnesses) are done with men, in which women have to fight for every gain that should be ours without such struggle, and in which men in suits and ties make most of the decisions about women’s health.

    I was recently in Thailand, where the sex trade has been a tremendous problem and non Thai-speaking hill tribe women are now among those most targeted by it. A decade ago, a brilliant and caring member of government launched “Cabbages and Condoms,” an outreach program that has restaurants, hotels, and other very innovative ways of getting its message across. In ten years it has managed to lower the birthrate average from 7 children per family to 1.5! I ate at one of their restaurants, where brightly-colored signs proclaimed “Our food guaranteed not to make you pregnant!” The organization is also doing important work to combat forced prostitution. I mention this to make the point that even in countries with far fewer resources than the U.S., real problems often get real and uncomplicated answers.

  2. Procreation should always include asking the question of what sort of life we are bringing our children and grandchildren into. Overpopulation is a huge climate change driver that’s rarely discussed. We will need radical measures like one-child policies and monetary rewards for not reproducing.

    I discussed the issue in many posts, for instance:

    Yet relieve could come in unexpected ways: Meat is laced with antibiotics and hormones, especially the ones which mimic estrogen and make men infertile. WiFi of laptops and cell phones in trouser pockets damage sperm (what an uproar when Researchers from the Nascentis Center for Reproductive Medicine in Argentina published their findings in November).

    The mentioning of Thailand in the preceding comment evoke curious associations: In my area there are quite a few women from Thailand married to local men, two alone in the village where I live.

    Well, this is a globalized world, and if I wouldn’t have the add blocker on all the time I would be bombarded with infos and racy pictures of “mail-order brides” during my internet researches.

    Good to know that even the most ugly and disgusting guy has a chance to get a wife, if he is lucky enough to live in a Western country.


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